This autumn does not augur well for Pakistan, or so it seems, for the leading political actors, PML-N and PTI have decided to vengefully lock horns in a show of a rather disastrous power struggle. The imminent showdown on November 2, as history tells us, will not not reveal any outright winners or losers – just a beleaguered nation repeatedly finding itself on the proverbial crossroads, not knowing where to head from here.

Pakistan is a country where the more things change, the more they remain the same. More than a decade and a half back, when Imran Khan emerged on the political scenario in the late 1990s and formed his Pakistan Tehreek Insaaf (PTI), people were fed up of the vicious bickering and mud-slinging so rampant between the two major political parties, the PML-N and the PPP. As a result of political wrangling and power-manoeuvring, elected governments were sent packing home, national institutions were rendered dysfunctional, corruption was at an all-time high and economic indicators were abysmally disappointing. The worst form of democracy is said to be better than the best of dictatorship. Having suffered both ordeals, Pakistan can vouch for the second the least.

Enter Imran Khan, the cricketing legend, the flamboyant yet clean-slated, honest philanthropist. Disillusioned and disappointed by the two warring political tribes, people, especially the youth, welcomed Imran Khan with open arms and joined his party. He came as a lifeline in Pakistani politics. With his mantra of a corruption-free, vibrant Pakistan, where equality, equity and justice would reign supreme, he touched and healed a raw nerve in millions of people across Pakistan.

Initially Imran Khan, not belonging to the same class of power-hungry politicians, appeared and sounded clear, undiplomatic yet refreshingly forthright in his political discourse. Being a political neophyte, his initial political journey was fraught with miscalculations, misjudgements and blunders, often having far-reaching political effects on his stature. Fast forward to the elections 2013 and PTI emerged as the second largest political party of the country. PTI won 35 National Assembly seats and completely wiped off Khyber Pakhtunkhua’s Awami National Party, forming a government in KPK with the tacit support of PML-N. Hence emerged the new tough-talking, more confident, intransigent Imran Khan, with his new band of reprobates at his side. Also began his fixation and fascination with dharna politics, “sit-ins” as a means of gaining political gains or arm-twisting the government, courts of law and other constitutional bodies to pass verdicts, not on merit, but what is acceptable to PTI. Contrary to PTI’s vehement claims, that is what appears to be the case.

After the elections, PTI accused PML-N of systematically rigging the elections and took to streets in 2014, staging a 127-day dharna in Islamabad, in collusion with Tahir-ul-Qadri’s Pakistan Awami Tehreek and Sheikh Rashid at his side. With his chants of “Go Nawaz go” and fiery anti-Nawaz rhetoric, Imran Khan embarked on a long arduous battle of “container politics” which very few hoped would lead to positive outcome. The most optimistic of analysts never believed that Nawaz would resign as a result of Imran Khan’s pressure tactics. For four months, Imran Khan wasted the nation’s time, spun idealistic dreams of changing society, and ushering in a “new” Pakistan, while everyone wondered where all the sit-ins would logically lead to. Ultimately, the massive tragedy of Army Public School compelled Imran Khan to abruptly call off the dharna. In hindsight, what could have been the outcome had the tragedy not occurred? This question is important in light of the orchestration of the latest protest on November 2, in Islamabad. Being determined to bring about change and revolutionise society to set in a new order is one thing, being delusional with one’s power is another.

Imran Khan’s menacing rhetoric is driven by a one-point agenda – to become the next Prime Minister of Pakistan. And it would have been possible had he not acted out of haste. Politics is a game of patience, tactics and timing. But Imran Khan has a strange way of creating and building “cornered positions” for himself, (his cricketing philosophy of cornered tigers comes to mind), from where he needs “save face” to rescue him from an embarrassing outcome. He makes a complete mockery of himself and his political ideology. Imran Khan, as we know him from his cricketing days, accepts nothing less than what he aims for. And that creates a deadly political impasse.

What could Imran Khan have done instead of using his threatening anti-PML-N rhetoric? The role of opposition parties is not to take the country on the brink of possible showdown by adopting a confrontational approach; no positive change comes about with disruptive measures. Had Imran Khan been wise with the power and trust that his voters had entrusted him with in KPK, he would have engineered and pushed for much needed reforms in the Election Commission and the electoral process, those that would have ensured fair and free elections in the future. He could have focused his energy and resources on developing functional infrastructure in KPK and made KPK a model to replicate for other provinces; he could have organised his party ranks to open up his party offices in other provinces as well, looked for reliable and sincere ticket holders to represent the party in the next general elections and with the support of youth, social media and overseas Pakistanis, he could have used that massive presence to win the next general elections. After all, he already had immense following from his cricketing days. These measures would have built the “naya Pakistan” that he so desires.

Challenging Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to come clean about the Panama papers, PTI has once again threatened to lockdown Islamabad on November 2. A peaceful political solution should be achieved by negotiations before the events take an ugly turn. The government, exercising its constitutional right, has imposed Section 144 in Punjab and the capital city, that prevents any political gathering or staging of a protest. An estimated one million people will march towards Islamabad, which could escalate into a precarious law and order situation. The government has already started blocking the roads and law enforcement agencies have been deployed in Punjab and the capital. The government maintains that it reserves the right to crackdown and arrest miscreants. It can be said that if PTI is revolutionary, PML-N is reactionary and this can be a dangerous combination. Once the march on Islamabad begins, it will be too late to look for solutions. Neither party seems to be in a mood to back down. Any serious repercussions would only strengthen the anti-democratic forces in the country. And so, as November 2 approaches, the mirage of power could ominously turn into dangerous waters to tread – for both PTI and PML-N.